When Brian McCann was moved to the third spot in the Braves lineup Sunday and Justin Upton to fourth, it marked the first time all season that the recently cooled Upton hit anywhere but the 3-hole.
Upton went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Sunday and is 8-for-42 (.190) with two extra-base hits and three RBIs in his past 13 games. He hasn’t homered in 14 games, after hitting 12 home runs in his first 24 games.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said before Sunday’s game that the lineup change was made to separate left-handed hitters McCann and Freddie Freeman more than anything else. McCann had homered in each of his past two games and was 10-for-29 with a homer against Tim Lincecum before facing the Giants right-hander Sunday.
“McCann hits him pretty good,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t want to put McCann and Freeman up there, put the two lefties together at four and five. So put McCann three, Upton fourth and Freeman fifth. Now if they want to bring a lefty to go through those guys, you’re going to have to go through Justin. That’s the only reason.
“They have pretty good numbers against (Lincecum), Mac and Justin.”
Upton was 11-for-44 with no homers and 15 strikeouts against Lincecum before Sunday. Gonzalez has said many times this season that Upton was his No. 3 hitter, regardless of the opposing pitcher.
Sunday was just the second time all season that anyone appeared in the lineup batting third except Upton, whose other time out of that position was his only game out of the lineup (he ended up getting two at-bats late in that game).
Catching up with Prado: Because Martin Prado was traded in January and his Diamondbacks have spring training in Arizona, Braves players will see their former teammate for the first time Monday when they open a three-game series at Phoenix. Know this: There will be hugs.
“If you’re not looking forward to seeing Martin, you’re not a very good person,” second baseman Dan Uggla said. “He’s one of my favorites of all time. I’m excited to see him.”
Gonzalez said he talked to Prado on the phone a few times after the trade that sent him to Arizona with pitcher Randall Delgado and three minor leaguers in exchange for slugger Justin Upton and Chris Johnson. He said Prado was initially shocked by the news.
“Then you start having conversations and talk about how this is a business,” Gonzalez said. “I think he’s fine…. I never thought he would not fit in in Arizona. I knew they would embrace him in a heartbeat.”
In the Braves clubhouse, you can’t find anyone who played with him in Atlanta who doesn’t say he’s one of best teammates they ever had.
“That’s because he is,” Uggla said. “He’s the same dude every day. He plays his butt off. He’s just an awesome dude.”
Simmons gets a rest: Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was out of the lineup Sunday. Gonzalez said Simmons goes so hard all the time, both when hitting and playing defense, that he felt compelled to rest him occasionally.
“He worries you a little bit,” Gonzalez said, referring to Simmons’ intensity. “At least he does me.”
Simmons was 1-for-14 in the first three games of the four-game Giants series, after going 11-for-22 with four doubles, two homers and six RBIs in his previous five games.
Etc. Jason Heyward went 2-for-4 with two singles, three RBIs and two strikeouts Sunday while serving as designated hitter in his third rehab game for Triple-A Gwinnett. The right fielder had an appendectomy April 22 and could rejoin the Braves in the next week. Team officials said there was no timetable and the decision would be up to Heyward…. Brandon Beachy, nearly 11 months into recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery, is set to make his first rehab start in an extended-spring training game Tuesday. Barring any setbacks, he’ll make the first of about six minor-league starts next Sunday…. The lineup Sunday was the 29th different one for the Braves in 37 games, not including the pitcher’s spot.